Widgets Magazine


Cory Booker: “Why have I lost control?”

columnEditor’s Note: Every Wednesday, The Daily will reprint an interesting opinions piece from The Daily archives.

Cory Booker ’91 M.A. ’92 is currently the Mayor of Newark, N.J. While at Stanford, he was a columnist for The Stanford Daily.

This article was published in Volume 201, Number 52 of The Stanford Daily on Wednesday, May 6, 1992, shortly after the controversial Rodney King verdict.

HOW CAN I WRITE, when I have lost control of my emotions? Not Guilty… Not Guilty… Not Guilty… Not Guilty.

Not Shocked–Why Not?


Five police cars. Six officers surrounded my car, guns ready. Thirty minutes I sat, praying and shaking, only interrupted by the command, “I SAID, DON’T MOVE!”

Finally, “Everything check out, you can go.” Sheepishly I asked why. “Oh, you fit the description of a car thief.”

Not Guilty… Not Shocked–Why Not?

In the jewelry store, they lock the case when I walk in.

In the shoe store, they help the white man who walks in after me.

In the shopping mall they follow me–in the Stanford shopping mall. Last month I turned and faced their surreptitious security: “Catch any thieves today?”

Not Guilty… Not Shocked–Why Not?

September 1991, Tresidder Union, back patio. A woman was struggling with her bags. “Can I help you, ma’am?”

“Oh yes, please… WAIT! You’re black.” She hurried away.

Not Guilty… Not Shocked.

I’m a black man. I am 6 feet 3 inches tall and 230 pounds, just like King. Do I scare you? Am I a threat? Does your fear justify your actions? Twelve people believed it did.

Black male: Guilty until proven innocent.

Reactions to my kind are justified. Scrutiny is justified. Surveillance is justified. Search is justified. Fifty-six blows…Justified.

Justice? Dear God…

I graduated from Stanford last June–I was elated. I was one of four presidents of my class–I was proud. In the fall, I received a Rhodes Scholarship–I approached arrogance.

But late one night, as I walked the streets of Palo Alto, as the police car slowed down while passing me, as his steely glare met me, I realized that to him and to so many others I am and always may be a Nigger: guilty till proven innocent.

I’m struggling to be articulate, loquacious, positive, constructive, but for the first time in so long, I have lost control of my emotions. Rage, Frustration, Bitterness, Animosity, Exasperation, Sadness. Emotions once suppressed, emotions once channeled, now are let lose. Why?

Not Guilty… Not Shocked.

The violence did not surprise me. If I were the powers that be, it would not have taken me three days to call the National Guard. But maybe when you’re disconnected from reality you move slowly.

Poverty, alienation, estrangement, continuously aggravated by racism, overt and institutional. Can you leave your neighborhood without being stopped? Can you get a loan from your bank? Can you be trusted at your local store?

Can you get an ambulance dispatched to your neighborhood? Can you get the police to come to your house? Can you get an education in your school? Can you get a job? Can you stay alive past 25? Can you get respect? Can you be heard?

NO! Not until someone catches on video one small glimpse of your everyday reality and even then, can you get justice?

Our inner cities are stacks of dry leaves and lumber, waiting for a spark. This is but a mere campfire compared to the potential inferno awaiting us. Conditions are worsening and the Rodney King verdict is certainly not the most egregious injustice in our midst.

Why have I lost control of my emotions? Why do my hands shake as I write? Tonight, I have no answers.

Dear God… help us to help ourselves before we become our own undoing.

  • Annie

    This is pretty amazing.

  • Jonathan

    This is Stanford Spoken Word quality.

  • Wintergreen

    This is disgusting.

  • Michael

    Am I the only one who is tired of all this Cory Booker hype and gimmicks?

  • Michael

    I’m sure there are other great, historical articles the Daily can find other than the ones written by him. Get off the D.

  • pol_incorrect

    I couldn’t agree more. I am sick of the propaganda Stanford is doing on this moron. First he was invited to be the commencement speaker in spite of his thin record. Sure he is a mayor and stuff, but if you take a look at the list of commencement speakers of the last 15 years, he is no match to any of them except for the inconsequential Dana Gioia. If one day the man becomes president (very unlikely) or a powerful senator, then fine. But for now, this thing of Stanford becoming part of his propaganda machine is ridiculous.

  • Daniel Horan

    Yeah, what a moron! A Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Stanford, mayor of a major US city, and now a US Senator. Seriously… this guy is obviously not doing anything right. I can’t imagine why Stanford would be proud to have him as an alum. Well said, Michael and “Guest.”

  • imokyrok

    Not at all. There are plenty of others with an empathty deficiency too to keep you company.

  • chrisfs

    Since we still seem to be having the same problems and they still cause tragic loss of life and property damage, I would say people still need to think about this.

  • chrisfs

    He is a Senator now.

  • RexTIII

    Excellent, relative then, relative now.

  • Jesus

    Y’all understand this was written in ’92 right?? Not in response to what’s still happening 20 years later…

  • Serge K

    All valid points, which have nothing to do with Rodney King. King would not do what the officers asked him to do, which was to stay on the ground. The other two black passengers in his car did as they were told and did not get hurt. Guys like Rodney King are what give Blacks a bad name and should not be defended. And by the way Cory, white guys get pulled over and thrown on the ground as well, when they look like someone police are looking for. I know from experience. No big deal, mistakes happen. As far as white old ladies go, until we truly integrate our society it is human nature to fear the unknown. My white mother was originally uncomfortable with my Black and Chinese friends, eventually she accepted them.